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Justice League Dark: The Parliaments of Life – Review

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Justice League Dark – The Parliaments of Life (#'s 20 - 23)

Writers: Ram V and James Tynion IV

Art: Kyle Holtz (20 & 23) and Alvero Matrínez Bueno (21 & 22) and Amancay Nahuelpan (22)
Inks: Raul Fernandez (21 & 22) and Amancay Nahuelpan (22)
Colors: FCO Plascencia (20) and June Chung (21 - 23)
Letters: Rob Leigh (20 – 23)

Publisher: DC Comics

Issues 20 thru 23 of Justice League Dark feature a story arc called The Parliaments of Life. The Year of The Villain event was the catalyst for this entire arc. Empowered by Circe, the Floronic Man displaced Swamp Thing as the Avatar of the Green. During the confrontation Swamp Thing was gravely injured and soon rotted away to nothing. The only way to save him is for Constantine and Zatana to find Abby Arcane. In Issue 20 it is revealed that the personifications of the Earth's natural forces, the Green, the Red, the Grey, the Divided, and the Rot have been thrown out of balance. Animalman recruits Wonder Woman and Detective Chimp to help him stop the war between the Parliaments. Later, Dr. Fate tasks his teammates with gathering the avatars of each Parliament together as he makes preparations for a ritual that will restore the world's natural balance.

Constantine has been rather tame in this series so far. He had some bad ass moments during the Lords of Order arc, but other than that he's mostly been a background character and emotional foil for Zatana. So it's been nice to see him at the forefront of this arc, and even better to see him up to his old tricks. I love that my all time favorite character is finally front and center as well. Dr. Fate (Khalid Nelson) is a major player in this arc. His powers are pivotal to restoring the balance between the Parliaments I really enjoy when comics work in lesser known deities from the mythology of the world into their stories, especially when their use is organic and not forced. In the case of this arc, that involves using representations of the four elements from African mythology.

After finishing the arc, I wished Kyle Holtz had gotten to draw the entire thing. His illustrative style has an 80's vibe, which is especially reminiscent of the artwork in Alan Moore's Saga of Swamp Thing run. Modern techniques and technology, combined with the colorists' shading and shadows, take this style of illustration to a whole new level. Small details really make the artwork stand out, including: the trail of smoke from Constantine's cigarette and the way characters' images are distorted or reflected by mirrors and mystic forces. Bueno takes on the art duties for the next two issues, with assistance in issue 22 from Amancay Nahuelpan. Their styles still have a more modern look, with just a hint of the 80's vibe.

Even though I preferred Holtz's style, Bueno and Nahuelpan produce many visually striking pages and panels. There's an amazing splash page that shows Wonder Woman fighting her way down a flight of stairs. The arc's middle issues feature light horror elements. These elements also seem to be drawn in a nod to classic Swamp Thing stories. Along these lines, the reveal of the Rot's leader and many of the following scenes that feature the character, are quite terrifying to look upon. All three artists sync up when it's their turn to the draw dream sequences that factor into the arc's plot. The team of colorists do a great job of coloring these scenes. Their color choices give these sequences an appropriately dreamy and eerie look, that distinguishes them from the other scenes in the story.

Although there was a lot I liked about The Parliaments of Life, I still have some mixed feeling about this story arc. In Issue 23, Constantine sums it up best, "Stories go in circles...we're just back to where it all began." The entire arc feels very derivative of past Swamp Thing stories. I know comic books are naturally cyclical, but Tynion normally does a better job of elevating previous ideas. This arc pulls elements directly from Saga of Swamp Thing Annual #2 and the first half of Snyder's New 52 Swamp Thing run. Yes, it changes around some details, but not enough of them to make this arc feel fresh. Both of those previous examples feature Swamp Thing and various magic-based DC heroes traveling into a dark dimension in search of Abby Arcane. In the former, Swamp Thing must save her from hell. In the latter, Swamp Thing and Animal Man must save Abby from the Rot in order to restore a natural balance in the world. In the Parliament of Life arc the only difference is that the Justice League Dark team has to find Abby in order to restore the natural balance and save Swamp Thing. Despite a lack of originality, Tynion IV does deserve some praise for this arc. Both he and Ram V use this arc to make the most of the curve ball thrown at them by the Year of the Villain cross-over event. They've managed to admirably work the plot details born from their cross-over issues into the previous events of this series. Plus, a battle between the Parliaments is a great conflict for the Justice League Dark to face. Not only that, but it was a logical next chapter in the ongoing series.

All in all The Parliaments of Life was a very entertaining, if somewhat uninspired, story arc. It ends with both an exciting conclusion and a great set up for the next part of the story. Tynion IV really has put together an amazingly interconnected story that has branched across the entire series. In this arc, Ram V did a good job capturing the same character voices and style of dialogue Tynion has used on the Justice League Dark team since the first issue. Justice League Dark remains a solid series. If you aren't reading it already, you should really give it a try.

Writing: 3 / 5

Art: 3.5 / 5

OVERALL: 3.3 / 5